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Four Little Words That Changed My Writing Priorities

Over the weekend my husband took our six-year-old son to a friend’s birthday party. As they were leaving the event, a fellow parent told my husband she’s been following my work on Facebook and she’s so happy to see I’m writing full-time.

When my husband relayed this story to me, our bookworm son smiled at me and declared proudly, “My mom is cool.”


Cool? Me?? Really???

This is new.

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I spent 13 years as a professional fundraiser, writing grant proposals for nonprofit organizations. In all that time, NO ONE thought my work was cool.

Eyes would glaze over as I’d describe the intricacies of prospect research, donor engagement, and stewardship. A riveting Need Statement might be exciting to a foundation’s program officer, but it’s never going to hold a crowd’s attention at a cocktail party.

To make matters worse, my husband works in a field — video games — that is decidedly cool, and he’s produced a number of well-known titles, including Guitar Hero, Call of Duty, and Tony Hawk Pro Skater. For the first decade or so of our marriage, conversations with new friends would usually begin as follows:

New Friend to my Husband: “What do you do for work?”

Husband: “I’m a video game producer.”

New Friend: “Wow. That’s so cool! And Sandy, what about you?”

Me: “Oh, I’m a grant writer for a nonprofit.”

New Friend: “Huh.” *blank stare, blink, turns back to my husband* “So, tell me more about your video game work…”

See? Not cool.

When I decided to pursue freelance writing my priorities were to get published in a reputable print outlet, gain a following for my work, secure an agent, and eventually publish a novel. I set out wanting to make money doing something I love, but also wanting the praise and accolades that come along with a creative writing career.

Thus far, none of the above has happened. I do have a piece coming out soon in Boston Globe Magazine, but otherwise, all I have to show for my fiction is a giant stack of rejection slips. I don’t have a significant following yet, and I’m nowhere near close to finishing a novel. (Sadly, I did not “win” NaNoWriMo.)

But I have to be honest: I kind of don’t care.

Don’t get me wrong. I still have goals. I’m still going to do the work. I’ll still sit and write and attempt to make a profitable career as a Writer.

But the external praise and applause are suddenly not all that important. Truth is, my son’s four little words changed me. Nothing I accomplish this year will top the moment when he showed pride in my work. Even if I end 2019 unpublished, sans novel, I’ll be golden.

Because my son thinks his writing mom is cool.